Maggie Gallagher Gives False Information About El Coyote Owner
May 4th, 2009
I don’t object to National Organization for Marriage’s Maggie Gallagher having any view she wishes to endorse. Nor do I oppose her opining wherever she gets the chance.
But Gallagher is not entitled to make claims that are contrary to the facts.
On Larry King Live (with Joy Behar sitting in as guest host), Gallagher said the following:
After Prop 8 … we had a waitress who gave $100 to support marriage and people were calling for her job, they wanted her to lose her job because she supported marriage as a man and a woman.
That, of course, was a reference to the response when gay Angelenos found out that Margie Christoffersen contributed to Proposition 8. Margie was not “a waitress”.
Margie is the “face” of El Coyote Mexican Restaurant, the family member selected to represent the family owned establishment to their customers. She is the daughter of the titular owner and the wife of the business manager for the company; they operate the restaurant together.
When gay patrons of the restaurant, most of whom had been customers for decades, found out that Margie had smiled at them one day and gave money to remove their rights the next, they demanded a meeting. In that meeting Margie was completely dismissive of their concerns.
Christoffersen has never been a waitress. Gallagher knows the facts of this story, she’s written on it before. This was nothing but a false attempt to elicit sympathy for a powerless woman who feared for her next paycheck, a woman who does not exist.
Steve Lopez’ Heart Bleeds for Margie Christoffersen
December 14th, 2008LA Times columnist Steve Lopez has decided to come riding up on his white horse to the aid of poor Margie Christoffersen.
And you know how sometimes you read a story and it becomes clear that the writer has no idea what they’re talking about? That was pretty evident in this case.
Lopez is not known for his balanced reporting. I don’t regularly read his column because it seldom includes much more than his own personal views illustrated by an anecdotal story. And this time he was no more prepared, knowledgeable, or objective than usual.
As the saying goes, Lopez is entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts. Here are a few examples of how he got it wrong:
A boycott was organized on the Internet, with activists trashing El Coyote on restaurant review sites. Then came throngs of protesters, some of them shouting “shame on you” at customers. The police arrived in riot gear one night to quell the angry mob.
Steve doesn’t tell you that the “angry mob” consisted mostly of regular customers and that those throngs met mostly on one night organized for just that purpose. Nor were they in any way “quelled”. Lopez selected untruthful imagery to advance his argument.
And if you want to see an example of the police “in riot gear” just look at the picture that the Times used on Steve’s article. The man on the right in the short sleve black shirt without a helmet and holding a flashlight is a policeman. I wouldn’t want to be him in a riot.
But it wouldn’t stir up sympathy for Margie if he said, “Four police officers helped keep the protest on the sidewalk. The crowd was cooperative and at no time was there any confrontation with the police.”
But I didn’t like what I was hearing about the vilification of Margie Christoffersen and others in California being targeted for the crime of voting their conscience.
Never – EVER – has Margie been “targeted for the crime of voting her conscience”. That’s just factually untrue. Margie was targeted because she presented a supportive front to her gay customers while she simultaneously funded efforts to take away a fundamental right. This is not a matter of semantics, it’s a matter of facts.
So even if Margie returns to work at El Coyote, her husband said, “she will never, ever be back here on a Thursday night.”
Thursdays, as tradition had it, the place was mobbed with gay customers.
I had lunch at El Coyote on Thursday, and most of the tables were empty.
Here’s where Steve displays his ignorance.
El Coyote was not a restaurant with one “gay night”. On any given night of the week a significant segment of the customers were gay.
And gay customers are not upset that Margie was there on Thursdays. They are upset that she betrayed them. Clearly neither Lopez nor Wayne Christoffersen yet understand why El Coyote’s gay customers left.
Steve Lopez can eat there any time he likes. But as for me, if Margie comes back at all – Thursdays or any days – I won’t.
Anti-Gay Activist Maggie Gallagher Defends El Coyote’s Margie Christoffersen
December 12th, 2008
Maggie Gallagher, President of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, is one of the leaders in the effort to deny gay citizens equal access to marriage laws. Her statements in the past have shown that Maggie finds efforts to sway public opinion to be more important than telling the truth. In an National Review Online article this week she continues that trend.
Gallagher seeks to demonize the gay community and uses the example of Margie Christoffersen and the response by El Coyote patrons as an example of the “McCarthyite” spirit of supporters of marriage equality. And facts certainly weren’t going to stand in her way.
Take her initial claim:
Marjorie is just one of 89 people who work for El Coyote.
Is she? Really?
There are absolutely zero regular customers, restaurant critics, or local color writers who would have described Margie in this manner – prior to the Prop 8 situation. Marjorie is just one of 89 people who work for El Coyote in the same way that the Pope is just one of a billion Catholics.
Yet to make her case about the evil of the pro-marriage crowd, Maggie said it anyway. Because that lie supports the point she really wants:
This is a totally new tactic by the way. Boycotts against businesses who donate to a cause or mistreat their customers have long been an accepted part of the American democratic practice. But targeting an entire business because one person associated with it made (in their personal capacity) a donation to a cause is brand new. It’s essentially McCarthyite in spirit. Gay-marriage activists hope to make you unemployable if you publicly disagree with them.
But there is no truth in Maggie’s assertion that individual-related boycotts are somehow “new” or outside the “accepted part of the American democratic practice”.
Yes, some successful boycotts, such as that against the Mongomery Bus system, were due to institutional policies. But there certain have been many boycotts over history because of the actions of one person, often outside of their capacity as an “employee”. For example here are two that have been conducted by the community:
- In the late ’70’s, gays led a boycott against Florida Orange Juice because of their spokesman, Anita Bryant, and her anti-gay activism. Bryant was dropped in 1979.
- Also in the late 70’s and through the 80’s Coors Beer was boycotted by gay bars because of the political contributions of some members of the Coors Family. The Coors Brewing Company is now one of the companies most supportive of their gay and lesbian employees and the gay community at large (though some family members remain politically conservative).
And gays are not alone in individual-based boycotts. There have been wallet-voting efforts made against a whole host of other companies ranging from Carl’s Jr. to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream because various subsets of the population did not like the political views of individuals associated with the company.
Conservatives even went so far as to talk about boycotting Starbucks because of a gay individual was quoted on a cup. And it is not uncommon for viewers of various stripes to refuse to see movies which feature actors with whom they disagree politically; I’m willing to bet that even Maggie Gallagher watches her expenditures in just that manner.
Maggie Gallagher has absolutely no basis for claiming that targeting El Coyote and Marjorie Christoffersen is something new. She just thinks that saying so will stir ill will towards gay people and others who support marriage equality. She wants to accuse us of trying to make those who disagree with us unemployable. She wants to demonize us and continue feeding Proposition 8’s campaign of fear.
Those who read Maggie casually may not see immediate evidences of her contempt and disdain for those to whom she wants dictate. Maggie loves to wrap her calls for discrimination in cloaks labeled generous, kind, and ordinary. But at the basis of every self-righteous and indignant statement lies a willingness to say anything – no matter how far divorced from the truth – to advance her moral crusade. And that she writes skillfully does not make her articles any more benign or less dishonest.
She would never say it; she’s far too clever. But her writing makes clear: Maggie Gallagher wants her readers to hate you. And she’s willing to lie to acheive that goal.
El Coyote Manager Steps Down
December 8th, 2008
Frontiers Magazine is reporting that Marjorie Christoffersen, manager at El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeless, is stepping down. She is also resigning as a member of El Coyote’s board of directors. She had been with the restaurant for 26 years.
El Coyote became embroiled in controversey last month when it was learned that Marjorie Christoffersen had donated $100 to California’s “Yes on 8” campaign, which sponsored the contitutional amendment to strip gays and lesbians of their right to marry. This contribution came as a shock to restaurant’s gay clientele which had seen the venerable 77-year-old institution as a welcoming and gay-friendly establishment.
After news of Christoffersen’s donation broke, El Coyote managers agreed to sit down and discuss the donation with members of the community. During the meeting, Christoffersen said that she was proud that the restaurant had been a “beacon of diversity.” But she refused to apologize for her donation, which she said stemmed from her Mormon faith. That led to a boycott of the restaurant.
What Margie’s Friends Think of You
November 18th, 2008
Sometimes you never know what someone believes about you until you hear it from someone else. Margie Christoffersen, the grande dame of El Coyote was always there with a smile for gay folk, but that isn’t how her Mormon friends saw it.
A fellow ward member has posted her views about Margie and El Coyote. And if they reflect Margie’s, I’m ill to think I ever spent a cent there. She opens:
I was going to write about the persecution of my friend, Marjorie (Margie) Christofferson, who has been targeted by the gay community for giving 100 bucks to the Yes on Prop 8 campaign. But instead of talking about their hatred which we have seen displayed so clearly I want to talk about Margie.
After some glowing praise about what a good Mormon Margie was, she gets in her digs.
To know such a woman is truly an honor. You don’t meet many great people in your life, they are a rarity. I have pledged to do whatever I can to help her get through this. If Margie is willing to sacrifice so much for what she believes, the least I can do is support her and stand by her. The people who are vilifying her don’t even begin to know what kind of wonderful person they are hurting. They will never have the moral fortitude to looks such heated opposition in the eye and not blink. They will never be as good, forgiving or loving as my good friend Margie Christofferson. May God watch over her now. May all those who supported Prop. 8 support her now. She given so much for us, it is time to pay her back.
What a coincidence. Her gay customers also thought it was time to pay her back.
I happened to notice, as I drove by on my way home last night, that El Coyote had significantly fewer customers than is usual for a Monday night.
El Coyote Boycott – My Observations
November 14th, 2008
I promised to post my take on last night’s protest, so here goes:
I stopped by the boycott of El Coyote Cafe last night just to see if it was on target and effective. I found myself drawn in. While I had not expected more than perhaps 30 activist types, I would estimate that more than 200 people took part (at one point – when you could still get from one side to the other – I counted about 150).
Those who were there knew why they were there and a great many were El Coyote customers. There were a great many hand painted signs and most showed an awareness of the facts involved. And while this was clearly seen as a part of a much larger protest effort by those I spoke to, this was not an irrational response to a rumor.
Unlike the mainstream media reports that Margie Christoffersen is “a manager” or “a daughter of the owner” (some even call her “an employee”), those there knew full well that Margie is the face of El Coyote. She is as much a part of the place as the fattening food, cheap margaritas, and bird cages full of plastic flowers.
And there is little doubt that the boycott was effective. During the period of the protest, only a handful of patrons drove into the parking lot and braved the jeers of boycotters. Perhaps not surprisingly, many were blonde. None were there unintentionally.
And while the parking lot was about half full, most of those cars didn’t move all night and I’m guessing that they did not belong to customers.
At one point a bus arrived and a large group of slightly-overdressed people entered the restaurant through a side door. Lisa Derrick identified them as French tourists, but I’ve not noticed another tour bus stop at El Coyote in the 19 years I’ve eaten there and find the coincidence a bit suspicious. Also, my admitedly limited experience with French people suggests that its likely that in a bus load of random tourists there would be several in the group who would refuse to eat at a restaurant being picketed by gays.
Although I had intended only to observe, I found that for this night, this was a boycott protest I could support. I soon found myself helping hold up a giant “boycott bigotry” sign. It’s not the wording I would have chosen, but it was close enough.
I was approached by a young man leaving the restaurant. He told me that he and his friends had a drink in the bar and while they sat there they realized that they just couldn’t stay and eat. “We decided we had to show our support for you.”
Well over half of the cars driving by honked or waved. A few circled around the block to honk again. Only one hasidic gentleman yelled “faggot” and one elderly man flipped us off – otherwise there was no visible negative response.
This was unquestionably a successful night of boycotting. But it was not a happy victory.
Those who work at El Coyote are the victims of the ownerships decisions – both that of Marjorie to contribute to the harm of her customers and the decision of her family to let her stay the face and voice of the establishment. I fear that unless a change is made quickly, this LA landmark will irreparably lose its base of gay and gay-friendly costomers and there aren’t enough busloads of “French tourists” to make up for that loss. And I feel sorrow that the employees – including Roberto and Isabelle, my favorite waiters – could all be hurt in the process.
And I still consider Margie to be a victim of the situation. Her church put her in an impossible position, fund an attack on those you love or lose your salvation. And while I cannot continue to contribute to her further enrichment (she told us her choice), I know she’s terribly hurt.
The El Coyote Boycott
November 14th, 2008
I’m terribly busy this morning and so I can’t share my perspectives about the El Coyote boycott last night.
But until then, here is the LA Times write-up. Don’t believe the part about police in riot gear. Four very friendly and cooperative officers showed up in their usual uniform to remind people to get out of the street. There was no confrontation with officers whatsoever.
Here also is a very informative piece by Lisa Derrick, writing at FireDogLake. Lisa is the one who recorded video of the meeting with Marjorie.
Gotta run. More later.
All Of Those Gay Friends You Say You Have? They Are No Longer Your Friends
November 13th, 2008
Yesterday, Timothy Kincaid provided a first-hand account of the meeting at LA’s El Coyote Cafe to listen to Marjorie Christoffersen explain her decision to contribute to the Yes on 8 campaign. This decision was particularly painful to El Coyote’s mix of loyal gay and straight customers. Now, via Queerty, we have video of the event.
The first video is of Marjorie Christoffersen’s talk before the crowd.
So far, so good.
That is, until they decided to take questions from the audience:
Those who voted to disenfranchise their gay and lesbian neighbors have been stunned at the outpouring of anger over the passage of Propositions 8, 102 and 2 (in California, Arizona and Florida, respectively).
It’s mystifying to me, but they seemed genuinely surprised that people that they thought they knew and loved would be angry to see their rights put up to a vote and defeated. It mystifies me because I wonder how many straight people would put up with the idea that their right to marry should be subject to a vote — and they lose that vote? How would they react?
And now many of those people who voted against us and who gave money to a cause to render us second-class citizens, they fall back on the defense that “many of my best friends are gay.”
Well, that doesn’t work anymore. Here’s a news flash: All those gay friends you have? If you supported Prop 8 (or Prop 102 or Amendment 2), they are no longer your friends. You can safely drop that line of defense.
El Coyote: An Uncompromising Faith
November 12th, 2008
About 75 people showed up for the early lunch at El Coyote Cafe to listen to Marjorie Christoffersen explain her decision to contribute to the Yes on 8 Campaign. Most of those attending were men who had been customers of Margie’s restaurant for many years. Some were children of Mormons or had been raised in the faith. And while there was at least one who just wanted to vent his anger, most truly wanted to hear Margie out and, if possible, find a solution.
Before her presentation, Arnoldo, an employee of 28 years, expressed that the management doesn’t share her views and that she doesn’t talk politics or religion with her staff. All were allowed to believe, vote, or contribute as they wish. He received polite applause.
Then it was Margie’s turn.
Although Margie is usually a spry woman, today she was breathless, and distraught and appeared fragile, not an easy task for a woman of her height. She stood supported between her daughters and read a prepared speech – most of which had already been released.
She praised the restaurant as a beacon of diversity, people from all places and where everyone doesn’t have to agree, where they can get along even with differing views. She credited her aunt for being sympathetic to the plight of the “gay individual” before there was support and how the restaurant became a safe haven for “that community”. She told of visiting sick people and providing “a healing place”.
She explained that she had been a member of the Mormon Church all her life and that she had responded to their request with a personal donation. She shared that El Coyote had contributed to many gay interests and charities.
Margie told of the 89 employees whose families relied on their job. She expressed how customers were part of the Coyote family. She lamented that this situation could harm a place with such diversity and harmony and joy and mutual respect and diversity of viewpoints.
“It saddens me that my faith will keep some from coming to the Coyote. But I cannot change a lifetime of faith in what I believe deeply. And I cannot and will not change my love and respect for your views”.
She did not apologize or express remorse.
Billy Schoepner, the Maitre d’, announced that the restaurant would contribute an undetermined amount in the neighborhood of $5,000 to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and to Lambda Legal. He also expressed an intention to run full page apologies in Frontiers, a gay magazine, and in LA Weekly, an alternative magazine.
But the crowd was more interested in Margie’s response than that of the restaurant.
The first question to Margie was if she would be willing to make a personal contribution to the efforts to reverse the proposition. She responded, “I have to be faithful to my views and my church”, and quickly left the room. Her daughters remained behind, looking angry, dismissive, and indignant that those there would question their mother or them. They answered no questions nor made any statements.
Lucile, a waitress that is much loved by some there, tearfully told how she felt that God had led her to El Coyote. It was there that she met and learned to love gay people, which prepared her to be supportive when her brother came out. She expressed her fears that if Coyote goes down, she goes down.
But it soon became apparent that those present had not been satisfied by Margie’s response or the concerns of the staff.
Our friend Regan stood and spoke about how she had been subject to many people saying wonderful and loving things to her, a black woman, but once she was out of sight they had a different story. She noted that Margie had entered fragile and trembling but had certainly had the strength to rush from the room. Regan was not impressed.
Many there were distressed to know that a tithe of their profits was given by the owners to the Mormon Church, an organization that planned, organized, and funded an effort to take away the civil rights of those who made her business successful.
An executive with the Trevor Project told how 1,200 to 2,000 kids call the suicide hotline each month and that most come from the Midwest and that many many of them were from Mormon families that kicked them out, ex-communicated them, and left them selling their bodies on the streets to survive.
Several people sought a solution. One suggested writing Margie letters to express how she had hurt them. Others wondered if an ongoing contribution to a gay support organization in an amount equal to the tithe she pays to the Mormon Church would not bring reconciliation. Some expressed a desire to help the staff find new jobs should they lose employment as the result of Margie’s stance.
But there seemed to be a consensus that as long as Margie was a visible part of the restaurant, those present could not eat there. She would have to at least stay home and distance herself from the business. Some insisted that she sell her interest in the establishment entirely.
Some with Mormon families told of the difficulty that comes with disagreeing with the Church. You lose all family and all friends and all hope of salvation. The Mormon faith does not allow for disagreement or dissent. Truly Margie had been put in a position by her church’s leadership that threatened her business and her happiness.
But one man spoke of how he was raised Mormon and his family is still in the church. He said that there comes a time when you have to decide whether to hold onto one particular doctrine of your church or whether you will refuse to harm those you know and love.
And sadly, Marjorie Christoffersen has made her decision.
It was a very sad room that left today. I did not speak to anyone who said that they would continue to patronize the restaurant. They felt that they could no longer profit a woman who used their support to take away their rights. Many felt betrayed, some had lost a home.
No one stayed for lunch.
Micah, blogging at Shut Up! I Know! was also present. His observations were similar to mine.
Earlier today the LA Times reported on the controversy
Bob Montoya, a manager at El Coyote, said customers have called and threatened to boycott the restaurant, but it does not appear to have affected business. Montoya said he thought a boycott, if one was called, was misguided, as the restaurant has a number of gay employees and has always been gay friendly.
“I”m gay and I work here, and I’ve been here for 31 years,” Montoya told The Times. “It’s gay friendly. People have been coming here for many years, gay and straight, families and everybody.”
Perhaps Bob has not noticed a change in business. But I drive home past El Coyote nearly every day. Last night the front parking lot was only about a quarter full, far less than usual.
El Coyote Update
November 11th, 2008
The consequences of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ decision to enter the political arena and seek secular enforcement of their religious doctrines can be measured in part by the chaos and turmoil caused in the lives and livelihoods of their own members.
We know of families who have been torn apart by Mormon theology on human sexuality. We know of suicides and depression. We know of estranged children and miserable holidays. But we respect the rights of churches to select their own articles of faith – even those that bring unhappiness on those adherants who are gay.
But when the Mormon Church decided to spread outside of its own fold, the tragedy expanded to neighbors and employees and friends and customers. No longer can hurt and difficulty be excused as a matter of private faith; now we see and condemn the public policy efforts that have left a trail of victims in their wake.
And not all victims of this agressive effort are gay, some are faithful members of the church that have been caught in the crossfire.
One example of such is Marjorie Chrisoffersen, the family manager of El Coyote Restaurant. Word of her contribution of $100 to the Yes on 8 Campaign has flown by email throughout Los Angeles’ gay community. And with this community – and its friends and allies – as her best customers, this has the potential to severely hinder her business.
Today Margie released a message:
I have been sick at heart that anyone has been offended by me. I have family, friends, employees from the gay community who are treasured people in my life.
I have been a member of the Mormon church all my life. I responded to their request with my personal donation.
For years the El Coyote has financially and generously supported the gay community and its charities.
Please be my guest for an early lunch Wed., Nov. 12th, @ 11:00 am and allow me to personally speak with you.
Please call and make a reservation as seating is limited. (323) 939-2255.
I don’t believe that Margie acted out of ill intentions. I suspect that she was just obedient to a call put out by her church leadership, a leadership that I believe gave no care or concern to the sacrifice that they had requested of those members with gay friends, families, and customers.
But I may be wrong. She may feel that the profits made from catering to our community can then be spent on civil harm towards us – as long as the motivation is religious.
I have made my reservation for tomorrow. I want to hear whether Margie believes that giving to a charity excuses taking away a basic right. I want to hear whether she will provide statements of justification or a request for forgiveness.
11/10/2008 – I had dinner at El Coyote tonight. When Marj finished having dinner with her family, I called her over to my table and asked “What was your position on Prop 8?”, She replied with “I love you guys, I would never do anything to hurt you, I wish I hadn’t done it”.
She was sincerely regretful, I could feel her hurt as she probably felt mine.
But from Eater:
“El Coyote is known for being a melting pot, we love and tolerate everyone. This has nothing to do with the restaurant. I donated through my church. We would never tell our employees they couldn’t contribute to political organizations—as individuals, they do and support whatever they want. El Coyote has donated thousands of dollars to the gay community through charitable organizations. As a rule, we don’t do politics. We have too many varying opinions here, and that’s the staff’s right.”
While the former sounds a bit like, “I’m sorry”, this statement sounds like justification. It’s the age old plea that “my personal actions should not have any impact on my business” and “I’m separate from my restaurant, so just ignore that the profits come to me”.
I do not in any way challenge Marjorie Cristoffersen’s right to contribute to whomever she wishes. But she will not use profits made from my dollar to take away my rights.
And frankly, I’m not all that interested in being “tolerated” at the moment.
So I’m quite interested in hearing what Margie will have to say tomorrow.
There are now over 4,000 google hits for “el coyote” prop 8.
For an update to this story, see: El Coyote: An Uncompromising Faith
Should I Give Up my Favorite Mexican Restaurant?
November 10th, 2008
I wanted to share with you that the owner of El Coyote, Marjorie, donated $100 to the Yes on 8 campaign…
El Coyote Café is a Los Angeles landmark. Over 75 years old, and still family owned, it is perhaps best known as the site of Sharon Tate’s last meal.
Locals know it as a favorite of many of who just want a meal and a drink, and don’t want to pay much to get it. A taco and enchilada with rice and beans is $9.50; pair that up with a margarita and you’re out the door for less than twenty bucks.
El Coyote is also delightfully tacky with a vast collection of “art”, the kind that includes paintings with windows that light up and frames made of shells. The waitresses wear huge Spanish dresses with lots of frills and most have been there for decades. It’s loud, it’s high in fat content and calories, it’s unsophisticated, and it’s always always busy.
But what makes El Coyote a delight is that its one of those places that are loved by straights and gays alike. On any given night, a quarter to a third of all patrons are gay and the rest are singles out together, birthday parties, families with kids, or old married couples.
A search of the website via the LA Times shows that Marjorie Chrisoffersen did contribute $100 to the Yes on 8 Campaign. And Marjorie is the daughter of Grace Salisbury, the owner.
But what do I do with this information? I’ve been a faithful patron for many years, sometimes as frequently as weekly. So it is for me a particularly distressing dilemma.
Do I boycott the establishment? If so, for how long and to what effect? What would alleviate my concern, what can I demand? Is it enough that Marjorie (who runs the place with her husband) gave though Grace did not? Is $100 enough for me to view the establishment at “anti-gay” when I know full well that several of the staff are gay and that the environment is always welcoming? What would I say if Marjie came by with her water pitcher asking how everything was?
I think this is but an example of the sort of conflict that we are going to each have to resolve as we find that friends, family, and service providers that we had thought of as supportive actually do not believe that we are entitled to equality under the law.